Written by Charles Leach, edited by Aidan Kendrick, Charlotte Pugsley and Caroline Babisz.

Alt Atlas is taking a systemic approach to cultivated meat, by gaining an in-depth understanding of stem cells on a genomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic level. Through this, they are continuously developing optimised solutions that can plug in and out of industrial bio-processes. As the cell lines are linked to its proprietary platform, Alt Atlas allows a faster turnaround for an efficient manufacturing.

It’s probably not surprising news to learn that we are at an important time in history right now.

In the last decade, we’ve survived multiple economic crashes, a global pandemic and countless reinventions of similar wheels to drive profit over change. The next decade, however, will be critical to the future of ‘life as we know it’. With the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) software programmes into traditional research tools, we’re at the early stages of a new era in human and ecological science, and life in general. Exciting right..?

Alt Atlas; optimising cell lines for food starter material.

This might sound like a futuristic opener to a Yuval Harrari novel, but it’s an apt introduction for the company this article is centered around. They are at the very intersection of AI, traditional scientific research methods, and the ecological disaster that our planet is currently experiencing. Their mission is to enable the alternative meat sector to reach its potential in bio-manufacturing, and they are called Alt Atlas.

We sat down with the founding CEO, Sofia Giampaoli, to talk all things alternative meat.

Tell me a bit about your background and what brought you here?

“Coming from Buenos Aires, Argentina, we’re a nation renowned for mouth-watering meats and red wine. However, I’ve always been an animal lover and woman of science, so given our current climate crisis, this has posed deep moral challenges for me.”

“Argentina’s support for Biotech start-ups isn’t yet at the same stage as in the EU/US, so I started my career with a large Food Corp nearly a decade ago to chase my passion for innovative and strategic problem solving.”

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart, enjoy the professional challenge of the unknown, to use technology as a tool and lead teams to solve global problems. I feel that these values lend well to scaling businesses and driving change. I’ve already tested this through building the first cultivated meat start up in Latin America, before I found a new focus in my current venture.”

Sofia Giampaoli, Founder & CEO of Alt Atlas.

Let’s dive into the science…

Alt Atlas is developing a three stage submodule approach to the software platform, powered by AI algorithms to generate new meat producing cell lines and, ultimately, novel food production. We are also providing a ‘technical know-how’ wrap-around service to our alternative meat partner companies. From the lab to pilot to scale up, we provide all of this with our software platform.

AltAtlas' algorithm allows creation of new animal cells and ascale-up service of how to best use them.

We optimise cell lines for full scale up, then with the AI ‘Omics’ and ‘Imaging’ sub-modules we can identify their best growth characteristics. This provides an increased control of cell proliferation by linking functional gene discovery with pathways and modulators that drive our cells. We can therefore diagnose cell health much faster than an expert’s eye alone, and understand its behaviour better. All of this is super useful to scale the alternative meat industry from research grade to a 20,000L Bio-reactor.

Alt Atlas develops induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) cells through proprietary reprogramming protocols, ships to our customers (alternative meat producers), helps guide their experiments in-house and, most importantly, uploads and analyses client results (e.g. data on growth factor analytics, imaging and cell proliferation) to the anomynised Alt Atlas cloud.  With this information, the software can be iteratively fed information to create a database on each aspect of different cell lines to assess their performance under various conditions derived from any cell type from any animal species.

The team’s bio-informatics and data science knowledge and expertise is Alt Atlas’ secret sauce. As there are so many unknowns in the culturing of iPSCs on their journey to FDA registered edible meat, their expert manipulation of the raw next generation sequencing data is invaluable.

Sofia believes this wrap-around service will enable clients to deliver against their research hypothesis and ultimately support their scale up to cultivate textured biomass with bags of flavour!

Why did you decide to found Alt Atlas?

“In our society we tend to gravitate to what we think benefits us as individuals, and usually brush over the detrimental effects around us. I wanted to provide a better option for the planet, and as an engineer, I also really enjoy solving problems.”

“Working at a Food Corp giant gave me an insight into the potential of a technology that wasn’t gaining the attention it needed. Combining my keen interest in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology & innovation with business dogma, I wanted to shake up the alternative meat sector.”

“After almost a decade since the inception of the sector and billions invested, only 4% of the most well-funded cultivated meat companies have reached pilot scale, and none to an industrial scale. The main building blocks of cultivated meat are cell lines but innovation has been scarce thus far. Only one cell line has the proven potential to produce meat. However, none are industrially viable yet. These are poor figures that need to be improved.”

“At Alt Atlas we postulate the infinite combination of growth components and proteins expressed to create meat producing cell lines, like a chef would when thinking about creating a Michelin star meal. Imagine how many genetic combinations could be created with the support of AI, prepping the perfect meal? (see Figure 3 below) With this in mind, Alt Atlas strives to solve the problem of cell line unavailability through an in-vitro andin-silico continuous improvement strategy. Doing this correctly, through our in-depth understanding of biology and technology, we will support the scale up of cultivated meat production.”

What has been the story for Alt Atlas so far?

“We have been up to a lot! As a team, we are developing a proprietary machine learning platform with ‘Omics’” and ‘Image’ submodules, to optimize the R&D and industrial scale production of the alternative meat sector.”

In the past 8 months we have:

  • Built and aligned a multidisciplinary team with vast experience (and are expanding still)
  • Participated in two accelerator programmes
  • Received two rounds of investment
  • Grown the company’s valuation 250%
  • Signed +6 early programmes with cultivated meat B2B and B2C technology partners for technical co-developments and pilots
  • Filed a provisional patent in the US
  • Developed the bio-informatic workflow of two of the platform’s submodules.
  • Partnered with UK farmers to source cells and build a new value chain together.

“Ultimately, all of this allows for our first beta product to be offered, to conduct pilots with our clients, further honing our data science and bio-informatics tools as services. Of course, we understand that AI isn’t magic, so we are cautious about the quality of data that we feed into our algorithms to generate best outputs.”

“We are on an incredibly exciting journey and this feels as though it is just the beginning. I imagine we’ll have much more to tell you this time next year!”

What makes Alt Atlas unique to the market?

“Alt Atlas is merging in-silico and in-vitro analysis to build the next generation of food products. Our platform is proprietary, allowing for an ever-growing dataset that is unrivalled in the market. With its ability to learn iteratively, the combinations of its use are almost endless when directed correctly.”

Alt Atlas is unique in two ways:

  • the proprietary machine learning platform, with its continuous growing curated database, allows to deliver custom cell lines faster and maximize their viability at large scales
  • Alt Atlas supports its customers to tackle the culture medium and bioreactor challenges by providing a fast identification of cost-effective raw materials and smart plug-in devices to control cell health in their unique bioreactors.

“Our company name builds on this too. ‘Alt’ for Alternative, and ‘Atlas’, referencing to us as a beacon in a sector with so much potential. From enhancing scaffolds, to cultivated media, to bio-reactor production systems, the opportunity is huge. We are supporting the realisation of this through delivering state-of-the-art non-GMO custom cell lines and being a repository for the discovery of novel resources: culturing conditions, media combinations, specified proliferative gene combinations and more. Combine this with our world class team and their technical wrap-around service, and you’ve got a real recipe for success.”

Make it stand out

What are your ambitions for the future?

“The company’s big picture vision is to support a fairer food system by enabling sustainable food products and de-centralising their production using AI.  We’re at the epicentre of a new community of cultivated meat ingredient suppliers and customers, most of whom are interested in adding their data to our platform.”

“Driving on our continuous improvement strategy, the focus right now is launching our cell lines to the market whilst gathering a large quantity of high-quality data to continuously optimise our platform for this community. We’re actively recruiting further strategic partners to test our bioinformatic services and improve their culture conditions. This will essentially build more knowledge on their cell’s behaviour.”

“Soon we will be prototype testing our additional ‘Plant & Plant Breeding’ and ‘Food Design’ modules on our platform, giving a whole kaleidoscope view of how our technologies plug into bio-processing. As our platform is continuously fed, the value this will add to our own information sources will cascade down to our users.”

“All of this activity requires substantial funding, so we’re raising additional capital to be closed in Q1 of 2023 and then we are moving to new labs. The future looks incredibly bright for Alt Atlas, so we are excited to realise it!”

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